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Reconstructing the Constitutional Case Against Mandatory Welfare Home Visits

By Steven D. Schwinn

The unconstitutional-conditions doctrine holds that government may not condition benefits on the surrender of individual constitutional rights. Nonetheless, since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1971 decision in Wyman v. James, welfare recipients have been subject to mandatory home visits despite the Fourth Amendment’s protection from unreasonable searches. However, the essential nexus test, which is rooted in Fifth Amendment takings claims and measures the fitness between the condition and the government goal, may offer an alternative theory for challenging mandatory home visits.

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